CAIRO — Arab foreign ministers who met on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was “wholly responsible for the dangerous stalemate” in US-brokered peace talks scheduled to end on April 29.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry also blamed the approval of Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem for derailing peace talks with the Palestinians, but accused both sides of intransigence.
Wednesday’s emergency meeting was requested by Abbas after Israel backtracked on releasing a final batch of Palestinian prisoners and reissued tenders for 708 homes in east Jerusalem.
The Palestinians responded to the Israeli decision regarding the prisoners by applying to 15 international treaties, breaking their own commitment to refrain from such action during the nine months of talks.
The tit-for-tat moves came as a major blow to Kerry’s frenetic efforts to find a way to extend the fragile peace talks beyond an April 29 deadline.
“Despite all, we are committed, as Palestinians and Arabs, to the negotiation process and the efforts exerted by Kerry in order to find a way out of this crisis,” Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi accused the Israelis of dragging their feet in the talks, telling reporters: “Gaining time is a strategic objective for Israel.”
The talks have teetered on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework proposal to extend the negotiations to the year’s end.
Israel said its release of each batch of prisoners was conditional on progress in negotiations.